UNLIKE THE DEPRESSING hollow silence inside the closed-down 73-year-old Anthony Bowen YMCA building downtown, there is at last a welcome silence in that neighborhood: residents and high Y officials--long embattled over the building's fate and the Y's presence in the hard-core blocks of the city--aren't talking publicly, but instead seem to be hammering out some plans to put the facility to constructive use.
There is always one stumbling block, and it's called financing: the Y has been less than eager to pour great amounts of money into a Bowen renovation project, preferring to concentrate its main activities elsewhere. That reluctance, plus the sudden closing of the place more than a year ago on grounds that it was unsafe, sat poorly with the residents and anyone else who recognized the tremendous importance of keeping the Y in the Shaw neighborhood.
To make an intolerably long story short, the best laid plans of Mayor Barry and his mediator on this project, Sterling Tucker, were lost in a cross fire of charges, denials, misinterpretations and bureaucratese. Only in the last two months or so has civility prevailed long enough to assemble a report that has just been submitted to the mayor.
Under the proposal, the Y might play a lesser role in the actual facility, but--and this is critical in the eyes of Shaw representatives--the Bowen building could be run in cooperation with the city, a neighborhood organization or a new nonprofit corporation. This could mean that, in addition to the fine Y programs, there could be still other job-training, education, recreation, older-citizen and black heritage programs at the Bowen site.
This combination of activities would meet the combination of frustrations that drains the energies and limits the horizons of so many Shaw residents. The young need the Y, and as they join the ranks of unemployed and underemployed adults there, training and education become at least as important as recreation. That is why neither the city nor the neighborhood can afford any more setbacks in the effort to bring Bowen back to life.